Eating a low-carb diet might help you lose weight now. But a new study suggests it might make it more likely that you will die earlier.
The study, published in Lancet Public Health, tracked more than 15,000 people over 25 years. The people who ate a low-carb diet (meaning less than 40% of their calories came from carbs like pasta and bread each day) or a high-carb diet (more than 70% carbs) were more likely to die during the study period than those who ate a moderate-carb diet (50 to 55% carbs). The researchers also pulled data from seven other studies involving more than 400,000 people in 20 countries.
The research didn’t definitively prove that the difference in diets was the cause of early deaths, but the researchers estimate that a 50-year-old eating a moderate amount of carbs might live about four years longer–to the age of 83–than someone eating a very low carb diet. There’s a caveat: If you’re eating low-carb and also vegan, you have a lower risk of dying early than someone who replaced carbs with meat and dairy. The authors write:
These data provide further evidence that animal-based low carbohydrate diets, which are more prevalent in North American and European populations, should be discouraged. Alternatively, if restricting carbohydrate intake is a chosen approach for weight loss or cardiometabolic risk reduction, replacement of carbohydrates with predominantly plant-based fats and proteins could be considered as a long-term approach to promote healthy ageing.